CHENNAI: We’re not sure whether it was the fact that a George Orwell piece was going to take the stage or because this was a Madras Players-cum-Stray Factory production — but this weekend, Chennai’s go-to destination was Animal Farm. Even non-theatre goers were plenty curious. And readers of this novella, which has stood the test of time from 1945 till date, clearly wanted a piece of the action as well.
For those who don’t know the story, it’s a fairly simple tale. After an elderly boar Old Major (PC Ramakrishna) delivers an inspiring speech to all the animals at Manor Farm, the air is waft with strong feelings of rebellion against the farm’s drunken owner Mr Jones, who is later driven away. Old Major passes before he comes to see this happen but two ambitious pigs — Snowball (Naveen George Thomas) and Napoleon (Rishi Raj) take it upon themselves to keep the farm running smoothly. The former, who is all for equality of all animals, even puts together Seven Commandments by which they are to live by. The summary of these for horses like Boxer (who are having difficulties with their ABC) is this: ‘four legs good, two legs bad.’
Unfortunately, over the years, greed envelopes the leaders of the farm. Snowball is driven away. Trade with man leads to money which leads to whiskey drinking pigs (in this case literally) and the ‘working class’ on the farm eventually can’t distinguish between man and pig.
With vocal arrangements by Amrita Fredrick (who also plays the horse Clover), the songs during the production were set to live and often dramatic percussion beats and the strums of a guitar. Hay all over Museum Theatre’s wooden stage floor made for a great cow shed. And the animals though unlikely dressed in cream kurtas and flair pants, convinced us every step of the way with loud snorts, clucks, whinnys and stomping of hooves so distinct — you could recognise horse from pig from hen without any indication at all. All credit goes to the talented Pooja Devariya for the movements that carried through seamlessly for 100 minutes — kudos to cast for all that stamina!
With the occasional joke weaved in, helping with some comic relief and some fantastic acting from all — a special shout out to the adorable ribbon-loving mare Molly, played by Kavya Srinivasan — this production, no doubt, did justice to the original theatrical production that came out in 1984. We’re sure director Mathivanan Rajendran who is turning 30 next week is getting a generous number of pats on the back for this one. Our only gripe was the over one-hour-long tedious length of the play...without an intermission.
Two legs need it bad, four legs need it as well, right?